Archive for March, 2009

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PUR genius

March 31, 2009

A gamble on social responsibility

Established community relations can mean the survival of a family-oriented business through a crisis, as Mattel saw in 2007 . But building strong relationships with consumers can require large amounts of time, effort and money, and some companies are finding it difficult to allot such resources to social causes in today’s economy.

One of the largest conglomerates in today’s market, Procter & Gamble, has remained steadfast in its philanthropic efforts despite the recession. The global company is parent to many popular consumer brands, including Duracell®, Pringles®, Olay®, Pampers®, Tide® and Gillette®.

Procter & Gamble is known to make strong social efforts, ranking 14th in the Corporate Responsibility Officer Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens List in 2009. The company also recently received the Social Innovation Award from the Financial Times and Just Means. Still, the corporation is pushing for improvement, recently announcing its revised sustainability goals for the next three years.

Helping kids Live, Learn and Thrive

The Live, Learn and Thrive cause helps needy children worldwide.

The Live, Learn and Thrive cause helps needy children worldwide.

Procter & Gamble created the Live, Learn and ThriveTM initiative to give needy children around the world better lives through corporate contributions. The company Web site reports the Live, Learn and Thrive TM cause has already helped more than 40 million children worldwide. The site says the initiative helps disadvantaged children:

  • Live by ensuring they are off to a healthy start
  • Learn from tools and programs that enhance education
  • Thrive through programs that help develop self-esteem and life skills

The company focuses its corporate contributions on needy children because it says they are “most vulnerable and least able to help themselves.” The Live, Learn and ThriveTM initiative serves children through programs in communities around the world, but one cause stands out above the others.

Water, water everywhere

Since 2004, the Children’s Safe Drinking Water program has provided children in developing countries access to water that is safe for them to drink. More than one billion people in these regions do not have access to safe drinking water, and millions of children die each year from diseases caused by contaminated water.

The CSDW program allows people to purify unsafe water by providing them with PUR® water packets, which decontaminate dirty water in minutes. Each packet can purify ten liters of water in less than 30 minutes, and this initiative has already supplied needy children with over one billion liters of safe drinking water.

Procter & Gamble collaborated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop the PUR packet, a small packet of powder that removes dangerous microorganisms and suspended matter from contaminated water. PUR packets are smaller and easier to ship than plastic water bottles, and as Dr. Greg Allgood demonstrates, the purification process is quick and easy but still effective.

PUR packets are proven to remove 99.9 percent of the bacteria, parasites and viruses that cause life-threatening illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery. The packets make water safe even for infants, who are at high risk of dying from illnesses contracted through contaminated water.

A clear success

P&G works with several organizations through the CSDW program, including World Vision, Save the Children and Americares. The network hopes to deliver 3.5 billion liters of safe drinking water by 2012, and P&G has invested more than $25 million in providing clean drinking water so far.

Procter & Gamble has invested much time, money and manpower into the Live, Learn and ThriveTM programs, but initiatives such as CSDW are saving invaluable lives. P&G shows it values corporate responsibility and the company is building trusting relationships with key audiences while improving lives around the world.

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The “Hut” expands its reading room

March 19, 2009

You may have
tangible wealth untold:

Caskets of jewels
and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be-
I had a mother who read to me.

– Strickland Gillilan

Read to me

I was a lucky one. As far back as I can remember, bedtime at the Hayes house was a strict ritual of teeth-brushing, pajama-donning and bedtime book-choosing. My parents read to me every night until I could read to them, and they continued to encourage me to expand my reading skills. Unfortunately, some kids aren’t so lucky.

Children whose parents read to them daily grow into better students and readers.

Children whose parents read to them daily grow into better students and readers.

According to a UCLA study, less than half of America’s children age five and under have parents who read to them daily. Several studies have shown that children whose parents read out loud to them are much more likely to be better students in the future.

“Of all child-parent activities, reading aloud provides the richest exposure to language and represents an important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading,” says Dr. Victor Perez, assistant professor of pediatrics at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

25 years of BOOK IT!

Addressing this national issue is one of the most kid-friendly chains I know – Pizza Hut. Almost 25 years ago, Pizza Hut established a national campaign to encourage students to read.

BOOK IT! got every kid school reading by offering free pizza as incentive. Believe me, the anticipation of finishing a book so I could add a sticker to my BOOK IT! button – getting me one step closer to that Personal Pan Pizza — was intense.

Each teacher sets a monthly goal for the class, and students receive stickers, buttons and other materials based on the number of books, pages or time they  read. Once a student reaches the reading goal, the teacher awards the student with a certificate for a Personal Pan Pizza.

Pizza Hut continues the program throughout the school year, and students who meet reading goals in each of the six months of the program are named BOOK IT! All-Star Readers.

Hot n’ ready… to read!

Pizza Hut has beefed up BOOK IT! to help children who aren’t able to read yet. The BOOK IT! Beginners Program encourages parents, day care providers and preschool teachers to read aloud to kids for at least 60 minutes per week.

The BOOK IT! Beginners program runs for eight weeks in March and April, with the objective “to develop a lifelong love of reading in children.”

Pizza Hut's Book It! has kids read their ways to free pizza.

The BOOK IT! Web site offers parents tips to build “reading-readiness skills” and establish an at-home reading routine. The site also offers the National Education Association’s “Top 100” list of books, and divides the books into appropriate age levels.

Pizza Hut has influenced millions of kids to read over the past quarter of a century, and expanding the BOOK IT! initiative to an even younger audience is sure to foster some future readers. Pizza Hut hit the corporate responsibility  nail on the head with this program, and BOOK IT! Beginners is a tasty way to get kids excited about reading.

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A responsible investment

March 9, 2009

“Prevention is better than cure.”

When Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus spoke these words at the turn of the 14th century, he probably wasn’t thinking about corporate public relations. However, these words ring true to the tune of social responsibility in today’s corporate world.

While some companies are built on the notion of good corporate citizenship, others need incentive to recognize social responsibility as a worthwhile cause. A public crisis forces a company to look at its public image and consider its relationship with the community. Generally, organizations with strong community relationships are more likely to survive crises than those companies who have not already invested in social responsibility.

Mattel, Inc.

Mattel recalled 19 million toys in 2007.

Some recalled toys had up to 180 times the legal lead limit.

Mattel, Inc., the world’s largest toy company, has been recognized as a responsible corporate citizen for decades.

The company has been a leader in employee health and safety regulations, releasing its Global Manufacturing Principles in 1997 to ensure fair treatment of employees around the world.

The company has remained transparent in these efforts, releasing its public Global Reporting Initiative reports annually to rate the success of these principles.

Also in 1997, the Mattel Children’s Foundation was established and one year later, the company donated $25 million to the children’s hospital at UCLA. The hospital is now called the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA and was rated among the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News in 2008.

2007 Recalls

Since its foundation in 1945, Mattel has seen its share of product recalls. But in 2007, the company issued its largest safety recall ever. Mattel’s Fisher-Price subsidiary recalled more than 19 million toys in August 2007, after finding parts had been distributed containing dangerous lead-based paint and unsafe magnets.

The U.S. allows lead-based paints to contain only .06 percent lead. However, paint on some of the toys Mattel recalled was found to be up to 11 percent lead – 180 times the legal limit. The high-energy magnets on the recalled products were easily ingested and could cause very serious damage to children’s digestive tracts.

Response

Parents were outraged by the toxic levels and dangerous magnets found in Mattel’s products, and the company knew it had to respond accordingly to maintain its public image. When federal officials announced the recalls, Mattel public relations personnel immediately contacted reporters at the top 40 media outlets.

CEO Robert Eckert gave public interviews and the company took out several full-page ads in publications such as the Wall Street Journal announcing the recalls. The company also launched a campaign on the Internet warning parents of the dangerous defects and updated its recall Web site regularly.

The company took full responsibility for the recalls and was upfront and thorough in its apology. Mattel continued to communicate its dedication to child safety and stricter inspections long after the recalls were initiated. Mattel also created a Corporate Responsibility division, appointing Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Geoff Massingberd to develop and implement more responsible practices.

Social Responsibility Pays Off

The company’s continued social efforts have positioned Mattel as a strong and trustworthy company dedicated to the betterment of society. Despite the 2007 recalls and the lawsuits that ensued, Mattel has maintained the respect of the corporate world. The Corporate Responsibility Officer recently released its “100 Best Corporate Citizens 2009” list, rating Mattel, Inc. as seventh.

At 50, Barbie is still a good corporate citizen.

At 50, Barbie is still a good corporate citizen.

Because Mattel was such an established corporate citizen before the recalls, I think the company was better prepared to weather the crisis and its effects. The company had been making social contributions for decades and built a strong bond of trust with its shareholders and consumers, as well as its external audiences.

As Barbie turns 50, she can remain a proud corporate citizen. And a nurse, doctor, gymnast, princess and whatever else she wants to be.

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A Pepsi a day keeps the doctor away

March 2, 2009

A deadly diet

Parents everywhere are concerned about their childrens diets.

Parents everywhere are concerned about their children's diets.

The kids I babysit think Doritos and Mountain Dew sounds like a perfectly reasonable lunch; their mom has a different opinion.

Countless parents (including mine) try to regulate their children’s “junk food” intake, and a trip to the supermarket can result in a full-fledged tantrum over a can of soda pop or bag of potato chips.

Unfortunately, some moms and dads are concerned about their children’s diets for a different reason. Impoverished families around the world are unable to adequately feed their babies and young children, and millions of children die each year due to malnutrition. In 2007, CBS reported that almost half of all children in India were malnourished and the infant mortality rate was 57 per 100,000.

To the rescue

One of the largest food and drink companies in the world, PepsiCo, has announced its intention to fight hunger in developing countries, with a special focus on children under the age of five. The corporation, which houses snack food and beverage brands including Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Tropicana, Quaker and Pepsi-Cola,  has decided to put some of its profits toward social responsibility.

On Feb. 19, PepsiCo announced a three-year grant that will contribute $5 million to Save the Children, the leading organization dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world. The grant aims to improve the health of young children in rural Bangladesh and India, where 40 percent of the world’s malnourished children live.

PepsiCo will donate $5 million to help malnourished children in Bangladesh and India.

PepsiCo will donate $5 million to help malnourished children in Bangladesh and India.

The grant will go toward providing the areas with nutrient-rich food, as well as funding for social programs to address nutrition and poverty in these developing areas.

A news release on CSRwire announced the combined efforts of PepsiCo and Save the Children will improve the lives of more than 650,000 children and expecting mothers over the next three years.

Mission: Social Responsibility

This partnership with Save the Children backs PepsiCo’s mission and vision statements, which present the company as a corporate citizen dedicated to the betterment of the world. The company Web site says PepsiCo’s vision is “to continually improve all aspects of the world in which we operate – environment, social, economic – creating a better tomorrow than today.”

PepsiCo is one of the worlds largest food and beverage producers.

PepsiCo is one of the world's largest food and beverage producers.

The site also expresses the company’s impression that corporate responsibility is good for business: “At PepsiCo, we believe being a responsible corporate citizen is not only the right thing to do, but the right thing to do for our business.”

PepsiCo may be on to something, as the company donated a total $74.8 million in contributions but brought in more than $43 billion in revenue in 2008. Remaining dedicated to its social mission has served PepsiCo well for more than a century, and the company provides a model for organizations looking to give back to the community.

As one of the world’s largest snack food and soda producers, PepsiCo may not immediately come to mind as a leader in health promotion. However, the effects of the Save the Children grant will mean life and improved health for thousands of kids in India and Bangladesh.

Maybe Fritos and Pepsi should be considered health foods after all.